Distance Education Pioneer

Dental Hygiene Alumni Achievement Award goes to Liz Kaz

Liz Kaz (B.S.D.H. ’86, M.S.D.H. ’87) is a distance technology early adopter, delivering dental hygiene education to underserved areas throughout the country.

Kaz led development of one of the first dental hygiene programs delivered via distance throughout the state of Wisconsin. She was then recruited to the Phoenix area where she helped create an innovative approach to delivering dental hygiene education in the Maricopa County Community College District. She also served as associate dean of academic affairs at A.T. Still University’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health, where she developed a new dental education program.

Since 2015, Kaz has worked as director of continuing education and clinical associate professor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, her alma mater, in the Division of Dental Hygiene.

“My greatest achievement in all that I have done and continue to do is to see my students succeed to reach their highest potential,” Kaz said. “Education, especially education in a fantastic career like dental hygiene, has changed so many people’s lives. My personal story of how education so significantly changed my life keeps me renewed and driven to pass that opportunity along to those seeking a better life.”

Kaz’s introduction to a dental hygiene career is an amusing one — she started assisting a dentist when she was only a junior in high school.

“I was going to my dental checkup one day and my mother suggested that I ask the dentist if he needed office help,” Kaz said. “So I asked, and the dentist thought it was a great idea. He asked me to start that Saturday. I was thinking I would be doing housekeeping and business office duties. When I arrived that morning, he called me into the operatory, had me sit in the assistant stool and handed me the suction.”

The dentist allowed Kaz to leave work early to take the necessary pre-requisite courses to qualify for admissions to the area technical college in Wausau, Wisc.. She graduated from Northcentral Technical College with an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. It was there she decided that she wanted to teach and determined that she needed a bachelor’s degree. She saw an ad for UMKC’s program in her dental hygiene journal and pursued the idea.

“I chose UMKC because of the people,” Kaz said. “I visited the university and felt like I was home.”

Kaz met her husband, Ken Frick (D.D.S. ’86), at UMKC, where he is an assistant clinical professor of endodontics at the School of Dentistry.

Kaz was mentored by Pam Overman, now associate dean at the school. Because Kaz was not eligible for in-state tuition, Overman recommended the Chancellor’s Tuition Reimbursement Scholarship. Kaz applied and received it — and says she wouldn’t have been able to attend UMKC without it.

Kaz went on to receive her master’s at UMKC, and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. The achievements mean a lot to her because she’s a first-generation college student.

“Although my father had only an eighth grade education, he was well-read and I idolized him. I wanted to make him proud to know that one of his was able to make it to the very top of her profession,” she said.

Overman nominated her for the UMKC Dental Hygiene Alumni Achievement Award, for her accomplishments and for serving on national boards including a term on the National Board Test Construction Committee on the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

“These are highly sought-after positions and those appointed to serve in these capacities have the respect and trust of their colleagues for their commitment to excellent and high ethical standards,” Overman wrote in the nomination letter. “Liz has made many contributions to dental hygiene education and is a credit to her alma mater.”

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Kaz and other outstanding alumni at the 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon April 20 on campus. The luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and garnered more than $120,000 in scholarship funds.

Click here for tickets or sponsorship information for the April 20, 2017, Alumni Awards Luncheon.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Alumni Award recipients.


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